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Amongst Women [Paperback]

John McGahern
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
Price: £6.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

5 Jun 2008
Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571225640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225644
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An overwhelming experience.' (The Times)

'A book that can be read in two hours, but will linger in the mind for decades.' (Sunday Telegraph)

'Compact but not dense, spare yet rich, and brimming with tension.' (Observer)

McGahern brings us that tonic gift of the best fiction, the sense of truth... a sight that cleanses us even as it saddens and frightens. (John Updike) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A reissue of John McGahern's classic novel, repackaged with a striking new jacket. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ode to family 7 Nov 2007
By A Customer
This book was a gift from an Irish friend some years ago. I only picked it up two weeks ago and started reading it: I shouldn't have waited that long, this is a great book.

It's not an 'easy' story though: a former Irish war hero, Moran, lives in the Irish countryside with his four teenage children (one boy and three girls, the oldest son Luke moved away to London after a personal conflict with his father) and Rose, his second wife. We follow the life of the family: how Moran lives alone with the children, gets to know Rose and marries her, the often difficult relation with his children: his second son follows his brother's example and migrates to London. This book is a character sketch of a stubborn, dominant, but also loving father. At first sight, not the type of book where the reader easily identifies with one of the characters. Nevertheless, in a subtle way the story draws you into the life of this traditional catholic family. The underlying theme is universal: intergenerational troubles and difficult inter-human relations. Some things never change, no matter the time period or location.

The book is very well written. Despite the setting being extremely `uncool' in its setting (key words: rural, traditional, poor, hard-working...), I never lost interest in learning more about the characters and the dynamics of their relations. The book succeeds very well in describing the remote life on the farm with Moran dominating the other family members' lives. It creates an almost claustrophobic atmosphere. As a reader you understand why also Moran's second son runs away. The women - including Rose - react differently: equally irritated at times, but never questioning his authority and remaining loyal.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Craft 1 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This book is a study of the faults and consolations of humanity: its irrational impulses and self-deceits, its capacity for forgiveness, and also its willingness sometimes not to forgive. Above all it is about the precious human ability to love and be loved. Indeed it shows how the lives of people are shaped by how they love and choose to be loved.
It also shows how choosing not to love - the bitterness that can come from the slights, betrayals and humiliations that make up the retinue of human existence - is not a natural state, and that the grace to overcome it is always available.
The deep satisfactions of this book derive from the exquisite skill of the author. His voice is gentle, yet his eye is merciless. He has deep understanding of the forces that bind men and women, and keep them apart. The most powerful after-effect of reading it, is to feel his own love, or at least his compassion, although it is never explicit. It is conveyed as if across a space. The distance is necessary so we don't lose focus, so the clarity of the picture does not blur. What we see - eventually, in the authors good time - is how we must be part of this story too.
It is a short book, but no work of fiction published since it was published twelve years ago carries more weight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quietly compelling read 9 Jan 2010
By A Customer
This profound and gentle book belies its topic, which is survival after war and the inheritance bequeathed by a survivor to his children. I bought it because the Amazon reviews made it sound interesting, and it is! What could have been raucous and full of cliche has a quietness deriving from the fact that the real action has already happened. Moran is made by fighting. The doubt is what his being made will make of his new wife, daughters and sons. Containing them all are the house, the landscape, the daily Rosary and above all Moran's brittle, unyielding law that within the family all are one. Ultimately he is only one of them as well. It is a story of decay and escape, of an Ireland that might not have been worth fighting for, and it is quietly compelling throughout. I have never regretted less an impulse purchase and can't recommend it highly enough. When I read it again, it will be with Edna O'Brien's House of Splendid Isolation - they'd work well together.The House Of Splendid Isolation
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your ordinary, violent Da. 15 Sep 2003
Set in rural Ireland, this uncompromising family drama revolves around Michael Moran, the father of five. A member of the IRA during the time of The Troubles, years ago, Michael has apparently repressed violent traumas which, we are led to believe, are responsible for his withdrawal from society and his current violence against his family--it is not the result of drink or the frustrations of poverty. Now the father of teenage children, he is disillusioned by what he sees as the fruits of this war, remarking, "Look at the country now. Run by a crowd of small-minded gangsters out for their own good."
Within his own household, Michael upholds all the values he fought for years ago. He's a hard, independent man, beholden to no one, and his word is law. To his family, however, he is often a tyrant--obstinate, cruel, full of hatred, quick to anger, and reluctant to apologize-and his second wife Rose, his three daughters, and his two sons are "inordinately grateful for the slightest good will." Outwardly religious, Michael daily recites the Rosary, looking for religious help for his inner turmoil and the complications of his daily life. As he says, "the war was the best part of our lives. Things were never so simple and clear again."
With a main character who is never endearing, McGahern challenges the reader to empathize with Michael and understand why the women in his family remain tied to him emotionally, even after they have successfully escaped his domination and established independent lives away from the farm. Gradually, the reader begins to understand the overpowering need to form connections with the past, even when it is not pleasant--to forgive one's parents for their limitations while remaining strong and faithful to oneself. In clear, straightforward prose of immense power, McGahern piles mundane detail upon detail, creating a sensitive family story of great universality, one which will give the reader much to ponder. Mary Whipple
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Amongst women
Very interesting characters and describes the period in Ireland well. I really enjoyed it and would like to read another of his books.
Published 2 months ago
5.0 out of 5 stars sad and funny
A window into the lives of an Irish family who are both loyal to each other and true to themselves, in spite of the dislocations of life and character. Read more
Published 3 months ago
3.0 out of 5 stars "She seemed willing to go to almost any length to appease, lull his...
This is a story that makes it’s mark on the reader, whether one wants it to or not. Their mother died early, leaving three girls and two boys. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Eileen Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Told
In this short novel we have no chapters, and no plot as such as the story is told by the use of episodes, or ‘flashbacks’. Read more
Published 6 months ago by M. Dowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written characters
Stick with it. The dark overtones never take over . Characters we all know and recognise but may never have seen in such depth before.
Published 7 months ago
3.0 out of 5 stars Middling
As a Leitrim man myself I was very keen to check McGahern out. However while the book starts interestingly enough I feel that after about page 40 it peters out a bit, and the story... Read more
Published 9 months ago
5.0 out of 5 stars a sensitive and satisfying read
An extraordinary insightful profile of a difficult man - reminded me of DH Lawrence Sons and Lovers at times - weaves in the rhythms of life through the metaphor of the seasons and... Read more
Published 11 months ago
4.0 out of 5 stars Study of an Irish family
Our book club all rated this novel highly. I would hope that the family in this story is untypical, even for its time - in the late 1950s or early 1960s - and I found the... Read more
Published 13 months ago
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of my Summer!
Wow, I loved this book. Characters who are anything but one-dimensional; a cracking good read of relationships, family, and Ireland.
Published 14 months ago
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
This is an incredibly moving story. I felt myself experiencing the anxiety of the protagonist as he tried to negotiate the brutal moods of his father.
Published 14 months ago
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